Birthplace: Mount Albert, Auckland, New Zealand
Lucille Frances Lawless, MNZM (née Ryan; born 29 March 1968) is a New Zealand actress and singer best known for playing the title character in the internationally-successful television series Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001).
She is also widely known for her role as Number Three on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series (2005-2009) and for the role of Lucretia in the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010), its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011) and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance (2012).
Most recently, Lawless had a recurring role on the fifth and sixth season of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation as Diane Lewis, a single mother who falls for Ron Swanson (2012-2015), starred as Countess Palatine Ingrid Von Marburg on the WGN America series Salem (2015) and plays Ruby on Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-present).
Lucille Frances "Lucy" Ryan was born in the Auckland suburb of Mount Albert, the daughter of Julie Ryan, a teacher, and Frank Ryan, a banker and Mount Albert's mayor. She is the fifth of six siblings, who include her four brothers and one sister. Lawless has described her family as "this big, sprawling Irish Catholic family", and while filming in Ireland for the Discovery Channel in 2004, she told Ireland on Sunday: her father's family originated in Quilty, County Clare, and her great-grandfather arrived in New Zealand as a convict.
Ryan appeared in her first musical at the age of 10 and began acting in secondary school. She attended Marist College, Auckland, and at 18, like many young New Zealanders, she went on her "overseas experience", travelling through Europe and Australia with her future husband, Garth Lawless. At 21, she won the 1989 Mrs New Zealand competition.
Lawless has said she suffered from bulimia as a child, but she was able to overcome the illness.
Her debut on television was two and a half seasons as a cast member of the New Zealand sketch comedy series "Funny Business" - after which she studied drama at the William Davis Centre for Actors Study in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
In 1994, Lawless appeared in Hercules and the Amazon Women, a Pacific Renaissance Pictures made-for-television film that became the television pilot for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In that episode, she played a man-hating Amazon named Lysia. She went on to play another character, Lyla, in the first-season episode "As Darkness Falls."
Lawless received her best-known role when she was asked to play a heroic warrior woman named Xena in the episode "The Warrior Princess," which aired in March 1995 (R. J. Stewart, one of Pacific Renaissance Pictures's in-house writers, dramatised the teleplay from a story that Robert G. "Rob" Tapert commissioned John Schulian to write). The character proved to be very successful among fans of the show.
Vanessa Angel was originally cast in the role, but she fell ill and was unable to travel to New Zealand for shooting. To differentiate between Xena and the similar Lysia, Lawless' hair, previously an ash blonde, was dyed black. She also wore a much darker costume, which made her unrecognisable as the Lysia character. Lawless subsequently returned as Xena in two more episodes of the first season of Hercules, which portrayed her turn from villainess to a good, heroic character.
The character was popular enough that a spin-off series was created: Xena: Warrior Princess debuted on 4 September 1995. Xena: Warrior Princess, like its parent programme, was a huge hit and achieved high ratings and cultural significance, lasting six seasons. The series brought Lawless an immense amount of attention and she became an international celebrity.
While taping an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in October 1996, Lawless suffered a fractured pelvis when the horse she was riding lost its footing in the studio car park. She made a complete recovery, but several episodes of the second season of Xena were rewritten to focus on background characters to minimise the time Lawless was needed on set.
Xena's ambiguous romantic relationship with travelling companion Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor) led to Lawless becoming a lesbian icon, a role she has said she's proud of. She has said that during the years she was playing the role, she had been undecided on the nature of the relationship, but in a 2003 interview with Lesbian News magazine, she said that after viewing the series finale, she had come to see Xena and Gabrielle's relationship as definitely gay, adding "they're married, man."
This reputation became cemented after her "graphic lesbian sex scenes" in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. She has appeared at gay pride events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
For her strong support of LGBT rights, including her public support for marriage equality, in 2017 Lawless was given the Star 100-Ally of the Year award at the Australian LGBTI Awards ceremony.
Lawless first appeared on Broadway in September 1997 in the Grease revival, as the "bad girl" character, Betty Rizzo. She wanted to play the lead role of Sandy, and later stated her belief that the producers typecast her to play "bad girls" following her success as Xena. She said the Sandy character was very similar to her sheltered childhood, growing up in New Zealand with many protective older brothers.
From 2005 to 2009, she had a recurring role in the television series Battlestar Galactica. Lawless appeared as D'Anna Biers, a reporter with the Fleet News Service who worked on a critical documentary about the crew of the Galactica and was later revealed to be a Cylon (Number Three).
Lawless competed as one of the celebrity singers on the Fox reality TV show Celebrity Duets in 2006, finishing as the runner-up to winner Alfonso Ribeiro.
Lawless has also performed as a voice actor in several animated features: In 2008, Lawless voiced the animated character of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in the direct-to-video superhero animated film, Justice League: The New Frontier, adapted from the DC Comics limited series. In 2014, Lawless voiced the militaristic "Queen of the Ants" in the American animated television series Adventure Time on the Cartoon Network.
In 2007, Lawless was to appear as one of the leads in the ensemble cast of the ABC television series, Football Wives, based on the popular British series Footballers' Wives. However, the series did not continue past the pilot episode, yet the network extended the options on its contracts with Lawless and the other actors slated to star in the series, including Gabrielle Union, Kiele Sanchez, Ving Rhames, and James Van Der Beek.
Lawless returned to television on 10 November 2008, in a guest-starring role on the CBS television series, CSI: Miami, in a Season 7 episode, "Cheating Death", playing a madam with connections to a murder, and helping Horatio "H" Caine with his inquiries.
In 2009, Lawless appeared in two episodes of the final season of The L Word as Sergeant Marybeth Duffy. She played a role in the Adam Sandler movie, Bedtime Stories, released Christmas 2008. Also in 2008, Lawless appeared with her former Xena stuntwoman Zoë Bell in Sony (Crackle)'s new web series Angel of Death, written by Ed Brubaker, which debuted online in early 2009.
In 2009, Lawless guest-starred in the HBO series, Flight of the Conchords as Paula, assistant to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Lawless co-starred in the Starz original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The show was based on the life of Spartacus, the famous gladiator, and the slave revolt he led, and was produced by long-time Xena producers Sam Raimi and "Rob" Tapert, her own husband. Lawless played the role of Lucretia, the wife of Lentulus Batiatus, who were both the owners of a gladiator ludus, which also saw Lawless doing nude scenes for the first time. Lawless won the 2011 Saturn Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Lawless reprised her role as Lucretia in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which chronicled life in the Ludus before Spartacus's arrival, and she also returned for the sequel Spartacus: Vengeance.
Lawless provided the voice of Goldmoon for Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, a direct-to-DVD animated movie based on the novel of the same name, as well as Wonder Woman in the direct-to-video animated movie Justice League: The New Frontier. From 2012 to 2014, Lawless had a recurring role on the NBC series Parks and Recreation as Diane, the love interest and eventual wife of Ron Swanson.
In 2014, she guest starred in Agents of Shield as Isabelle Hartley in the season two premiere, and reprised the role later in episode 15 of season two, 'One Door Closes.' In 2015, Lawless landed the recurring guest role of Countess Palatine Ingrid Von Marburg in WGN America's Salem. She plays Countess Marburg, one of the last remaining survivors of the legendary line of ancient German witches. In March 2015, it was announced that she would be portraying the role of Ruby in Starz TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Lawless, who has a background in musical theatre, played Betty Rizzo on Broadway in a production of Grease in 1997. She continued to sing during the run of Xena, even contributing dirge music of her own composition; this made it into the episode "The Path Not Taken" as the dirge "Burial," which she sang for the first time in the episode. Two musically-oriented episodes, "The Bitter Suite" and "Lyre, Lyre, Heart's On Fire," also showcased not only her singing but also that of some of her castmates. (See also List of Xena: Warrior Princess episodes for details.)
Lucy was encouraged to pursue a career in singing after being a contestant on Celebrity Duets, which she finished as runner-up to Alfonso Ribeiro. She made her onstage debut at the Roxy in Hollywood, a venue of 500 seats, on 13 January 2007, with a sold-out crowd for back-to-back concerts.
Lawless is a member of the board of trustees of the StarShip Foundation, the charity arm of the Starship Children's Health (hospital) which is part of the Auckland District Health Board. It is set up to provide additional equipment, support and help to staff, patients and families. She devotes much time and energy to fundraising for the organisation. She recently sat for the New Zealand television series The Sitting, an arts series where celebrity portraits are produced during an interview session, with the portraits later auctioned for charity.
Lawless attended the auction where her portrait fetched the top price, with the whole event raising $39,000 for Starship. Lawless has often raised money for concerts and events, donates part of her salary in favour of the institution, and has sold some Xena costumes to contribute funds. In mid February 2012, Lawless sang at New Zealander of the Year donating her appearance fee to the Starship Foundation.
Since 2006, 21 September marks "Lucy Lawless Feel the Love Day/Week." The day, organised by the Official Lucy Lawless Fan Club, begins a week of charitable acts and donations by fans in honour and support of Lawless.
In May 2009, Lawless became a "climate ambassador" for the Greenpeace "Sign On" campaign.
In February 2012, Lawless and six other Greenpeace activists boarded an oil drilling ship at Port Taranaki, New Zealand, and remained on it for 77 hours to stop it leaving for the Arctic where it was going to take part in oil exploration. She was subsequently arrested and charged with burglary, which carries an imprisonment term of up to 10 years if convicted. She pleaded guilty on 14 June 2012 to trespass charges regarding the February incident. Lawless said she intends for now to remain involved with Greenpeace.
In February 2013, Lawless and the other six activists were each sentenced to pay a fine of NZ$651 (about US$547) and 120 hours of community service. The judge denied the $545,000 in reparations that Shell Todd Oil Services had sought from the activists. Following the sentencing, Lawless said: "I consider it a great victory that the court has struck down the reparation demand from Shell, which I think was absolutely ludicrous."
Astronomer Michael E. Brown nicknamed his newly discovered dwarf planet "Xena"—finding this name more convenient to use than the then-official designation, 2003 UB313. When this object was initially determined to be larger than Pluto, it gained international attention and forced a year-long debate among astronomers as to the definition of a planet (Observations made by New Horizons subsequently found Pluto to be marginally larger than Eris).
The object's nickname "Xena" was used in the press. New Scientist magazine polled the public on their preferred final name for the so-called tenth planet; "Xena" ranked number 4. Lawless rang Mike Brown in December 2005 to thank him for his "senseless act of beauty," and claimed that she "never dared hope would stick." Eventually, both it and Pluto were deemed not to be planets, and were instead classified as dwarf planets.
Although "Xena" is now officially known as Eris, Brown made an indirect tribute to Lawless by naming Eris' moon Dysnomia after the Greek goddess of lawlessness.
In 1988, at the age of 19, Lawless became pregnant by her boyfriend Garth Lawless, while working with him in the Australian outback. They married in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia that same year and returned to New Zealand, where their daughter, Daisy Lawless, was born. They divorced in 1995.
On 28 March 1998, Lawless married Xena's executive producer, Pacific Renaissance Pictures CEO Robert G. "Rob" Tapert. They have two sons: Julius Robert Bay Tapert (born 16 October 1999) and Judah Miro Tapert (born 7 May 2002), who were both born in Auckland, New Zealand.
Lawless became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours List, which entitled her to use the postnominal letters MNZM.
|1997||Saturn Award||Best Genre TV Actress||Xena: Warrior Princess||Nominated|
|2010||Golden Nymph||Outstanding Actress - Drama Series||Spartacus: Blood and Sand||Nominated|
|2010||Saturn Award||Best Supporting Actress on Television||Spartacus: Blood and Sand||Won|
|2016||Fangoria Chainsaw Awards||Best Supporting Actress on Television||Salem||Nominated|
|1990||Within the Law||Verity|
|1990||Bitter Song, AA Bitter Song||Nurse 1||Short film|
|1991||End of the Golden Weather, TheThe End of the Golden Weather||Joe's Girl|
|1993||Rainbow Warrior, TheThe Rainbow Warrior||Jane Redmond||Television movie|
|1993||Typhon's People||Mink Tertius||Television movie|
|1994||Hercules and the Amazon Women||Lysia||Television movie|
|1997||Hercules & Xena: Wizards of the Screen||Xena||Short film|
|1998||Hercules and Xena - The Animated Movie||Xena|
|2000||Ginger Snaps||Announcer on School's PA System||Uncredited|
|2002||Spider-Man||Punk Rock Girl|
|2005||Locusts||Maddy Rierdon||Television movie|
|2005||Vampire Bats||Maddy Rierdon||Television movie|
|2006||Darkroom, TheThe Darkroom||Cheryl|
|2008||Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight||Goldmoon|
|2008||Justice League: The New Frontier||Wonder Woman|
|2009||Bitch Slap||Mother Superior|
|2010||Lez Chat||Construction Worker||Short film|
|2017||The Changeover||Sci Fi New Zealand|
|1989||Funny Business||Various||Unknown episodes|
|1990||Shark in the Park||Kim Hughes||Episode: "Double or Quits"|
|1991||For the Love of Mike||Helen||Episode: "1.6"|
|1992||Ray Bradbury Theater, TheThe Ray Bradbury Theater||Liddy Barton||Episode: "Fee Fie Foe Fum"|
|1993||New Adventures of the Black Stallion, TheThe New Adventures of the Black Stallion||Sarah McFee||Episode: "Riding the Volcano"|
|1994||High Tide||Undercover policewoman||Episode: "Shanghied"|
|1995||High Tide||Sharon List||Episode: "Dead in the Water"|
|1995-1998||Hercules: The Legendary Journeys||Lyla||2 episodes|
|1995||Hercules: The Legendary Journeys||Xena||6 episodes|
|1995-2001||Xena: Warrior Princess||Xena||134 episodes|
|1999||The Simpsons||Herself||Episode: "Treehouse of Horror X"|
|2000||Celebrity Deathmatch||Herself||Episode: "The Return of Lucy Lawless"|
|2001||Just Shoot Me!||Stacy||Episode: "The Auction"|
|2001||X-Files, TheThe X-Files||Shannon McMahon||2 episodes|
|2003||Tarzan||Kathleen Clayton||7 episodes|
|2003||Warrior Women with Lucy Lawless||Herself||5 episodes|
|2004||Less than Perfect||Tracy Fletcher||Episode: "Ignoring Lydia"|
|2005||Two and a Half Men||Pamela||Episode: "It Was Mame, Mom"|
|2005-2009||Battlestar Galactica||D'Anna Biers||16 episodes|
|2006||Veronica Mars||Agent Morris||Episode: "Donut Run"|
|2007||Burn Notice||Evelyn||Episode: "False Flag"|
|2007||Curb Your Enthusiasm||Herself||Episode: "The TiVo Guy"|
|2007||Football Wives||Tanya Austin||Unsold TV pilot|
|2008||CSI: Miami||Audrey Yates||Episode: "Cheating Death"|
|2009||L Word, TheThe L Word||Sgt. Marybeth Duffy||2 episodes|
|2009||Flight of the Conchords||Paula||Episode: "New Zealand Town"|
|2009||Angel of Death||Vera||Episode: "Help"|
|2010||Spartacus: Blood and Sand||Lucretia||13 episodes|
|2011||Spartacus: Gods of the Arena||Lucretia||6 episodes|
|2011||American Dad!||Stacy||Episode: "A Piñata Named Desire"|
|2011||No Ordinary Family||Helen Burton||4 episodes|
|2012||Spartacus: Vengeance||Lucretia||10 episodes|
|2012-2014||Parks and Recreation||Diane Lewis||10 episodes|
|2013||Top of the Lake||Caroline Platt||2 episodes|
|2014-2015||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||Isabelle Hartley||2 episodes|
|2014||The Code||Alex Wisham||6 episodes|
|2014||Adventure Time||General Tarsal (voice)||Episode: "Dentist"|
|2015-2017||Salem||Countess Marburg||15 episodes|
|2015-present||Ash vs. Evil Dead||Ruby Knowby||27 episodes|
|2016||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Hiidrala (voice)||Episode: "The Cosmic Ocean"|
|2011||Hunted: The Demon's Forge||Seraphine|